COVID in Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities

Early research has shown that those living with intellectual or developmental disabilities (IDD) have an increased likelihood of contracting the virus. In addition, this research indicates that adults with IDD are more likely to die from contracting the virus.

Although the research is preliminary and the exact mechanism is unknown, scientists believe that this might stem from a few things:

  • Those living with IDD in group homes or in residential settings are more likely to have contact with others who are potentially infected, especially older adults with IDD in disadvantaged areas.
  • The prevalence of underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, hypertension or diabetes, which can lead to poorer COVID-19 outcomes.
  • Sensory or behavioral challenges leading to poor compliance with practice preventative measures, such as wearing a mask or washing hands.

With the increased risk of the COVID-19 in the IDD population, it is important to stay up-to-date on the only treatment that is evidenced-based to minimize the risk…PREVENTION.  Because there is no known cure or vaccine for the COVID-19 at this time, the best treatment is PREVENTION. To prevent the disease for those with IDD, one critical area is to determining ways to increase compliance with CDC guidelines.

  • Educate and advocate for group home or communal living workers. Resources are available on the CDC website regarding guidelines for group homes here.
  • Ensure appropriate disinfecting procedures of all surfaces and shared materials.
  • Encourage infection control, employee screening and visitor management for those living in group homes or residential settings.
  • Maintain social distancing during group activities. 
  • Educate the person with IDD.  Explore resources such as social stories regarding the pandemic to better help individuals cope with these changes.
  • Work with your healthcare team to learn strategies to help children and adults with IDD to better tolerate compliance practices for prevention, such as wearing a mask.

For those living with IDD, it is especially important to understand the risks that the pandemic brings.  Remember, PREVENTION, is the key to minimizing the risk.


Landes, S., Stevens, D. & Turk, M. (27 April, 2020). COVID-19 and Pneumonia: Increased Risk for Individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities during the Pandemic [PDF]. Retrieved from

Mills, W. R., Sender, S., Lichtefeld, J., Romano, N., Reynolds, K., Price, M., Phipps, J., White, L., Howard, S., Poltavski, D., & Barnes, R. (2020). Supporting individuals with intellectual and developmental disability during the first 100 days of the COVID-19 outbreak in the USA. Journal of intellectual disability research : JIDR, 64(7), 489–496.

Turk, M. A., Landes, S. D., Formica, M. K., & Goss, K. D. (2020). Intellectual and developmental disability and COVID-19 case-fatality trends: TriNetX analysis. Disability and health journal, 100942. Advance online publication.